If you’re anything like this writer, you’ve spent at least part of your life trying to explain to your parents exactly what it is you do. Being born in different generations (and, in this case, different countries) makes relating to one another challenging at times.
And you’re not alone. These statistics from LinkedIn illustrate how common the job-fog is for mom and pop:
- 35% of parents surveyed confessed that they are not completely familiar with what their child does for a living
- 59% of parents want to know more about what their child does for work
- 50% of parents say they could be of benefit to their offspring by having a better understanding of their career
That cinches it. The gratification experienced from having your parents understand and validate your work is a wonderful feeling. If you’re having a hard time getting the gist across, try some of these approaches.
1. GO WIDE
Initially, it may be easier to just explain the purpose of your industry, or a relevant role that they understand.
The following conversation happened, multiple times, during my previous career in television production:
Dad: “So production is what?”
Me: “Making TV shows.”
Dad: “So you hold the camera?”
Me: “Actually, I coordinate locations. Sometimes I make props.”
Dad: “Oh, like painting the background?”
Me: “We don’t really do that.”
Me: “Sometimes I hold the camera.”
If you work creating SEO campaigns, it may be a stretch to try and explain the finer points of Google Analytics. But, you can likely describe the industry as one that helps people find things they’re looking for more easily by comparing what they’re searching with the sites that best match their needs.
2. BREAK OFF A SOUNDBITE
Boiling your work down into an ‘elevator pitch’ is probably the easiest and most useful way to help your parents understand (and explain to others) what it is you do. It has the added benefit of coming in handy when faced with a potential business prospect that may not be familiar with your services.
When designing your pitch, keep it short and sweet—between 30 and 60 seconds. Salisbury University suggests making sure that your pitch is concise, powerful, and visual.
A UX designer might try something like: User Experience design is about making the site visitor’s experience as natural and seamless as possible. We put everything right where they expect it to be and make it easy to find—like a lightswitch in the dark—and make sure that it works right, every time.
3. SHOW, DON’T TELL
The next time Dad came to visit, I engaged his help in making an especially challenging prop—an oversized wingback chair transformed into a giant bear throne. He took pictures to show friends and relatives at home, and when I sent a video of the scene with “our” prop airing, he was thrilled. It wasn’t until the work was about something he could tangibly recognize, on his own terms, that he understood.
LinkedIn caught on to this idea in an especially innovative way with their Bring In Your Parents Day concept. You can ask your employer to consider a similar event. It’s likely to boost morale and provide some team-building experiences. After all, nothing is more unifying than a traumatic experience, as your team members will likely attest to in the inevitable subsequent happy hour.
The important thing to remember, ultimately, is that your parents should (and likely do) love and value you because of who you are. They would probably be proud of you no matter what you did. And even if they don’t exactly understand your role, your happiness and fulfillment is what matters most to them.
In any case, with a little effort on both your parts, you’ll probably be able to give them a better picture of what your work entails.
Or you can just tell them you hold the camera.
Still not sure how to explain what you do? Do you sometimes wonder yourself? Maybe it’s time to explore some new options.